We will have our books at the GWA Symposium

IMG_5915Look for Gardening from a Hammock at the Garden Writers Association annual Symposium in Quebec City, August 16th through 19th.  We will have a table and are happy to share ideas and suggestions on low-maintenance gardening. Hope to see you there.

2013 is the Year of the Wildflower –

2013 is the Year of the Wildflower – check it out

You can buy many of these at Wildflower Farms, Mason House Gardens, and Chalklake Greenhouses. Several more “natives” are included in our book ‘Gardening from a Hammock’ on sale now at Lee Valley Tools. http://www.GardeningfromaHammock.com

Helen Battersby, just posted a review of Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum) on her site ‘Toronto Gardens’ (http://torontogardens.blogspot.ca/2013/04/native-plant-profile-prairie-smoke-geum.html?showComment=1365689631287)
I love her superb photos of this beauty.
Prairie Smoke is one of the great drought-tolerant plants recommended by garden lecturer and tour leader Frank Kershaw in our book ‘Gardening from a Hammock’ for a low-maintenance garden. He likens the seed heads to a “pink puff of smoke” and says it spreads but not aggressively. Like many native plants, it also tolerates poor dry soil. And the leaves turn a nice red colour in fall. A great all-around perennial.
You can find more drought-tolerant, low-maintenance plants discussed in our book.
(from Dan Cooper  on Gardeners blog)

Canadian Gardening Website Book Review

Book Review: Spend less time weeding and watering and more time enjoying your garden by Tara Nolan, editor

To see original article, click here.

Gardening From a Hammock: How to create a low-maintenance garden

By Ellen Novack and Dan Cooper


Let’s face it. Not all of us have oodles of time to spend in our garden. We may aspire to it, but the reality is our life can pull us in different directions. That being said, there’s no reason why we can’t maintain lush garden beds throughout the growing season. That’s where Gardening From a Hammock comes in. The idea being that once you plant all of the low-maintenance recommendations (the ones that are suited to your garden’s conditions, of course), you will have the time to sit back and enjoy your handiwork—or attend to all the other activities that require your time.


The authors, Ellen Novack (who has been writing our Low-maintenance Monday guest blogs) and master gardener Dan Cooper, have sought out well-known, Canadian gardeners to provide their low-maintenance picks and growing advice. While reading the book I felt I was privy to some important secrets—tips that I’ve applied (or made a list to apply) to my own garden.


What makes this book unique:

I love how the authors sought out a diverse mix of gardeners to provide their recommendations. Everyone’s growing experiences are different, so it’s interesting to see what works best for some and not for others. A handy chart at the end of the book provides quick, at-a-glance info for busy green thumbs. And an underlying theme (intentional or not) of the book is about helping the environment.


Price: $22.95

Book of the Week in the Toronto Star


Mark Cullen named Gardening from a Hammock the Book of the Week, March 9, 2013

Gardening from a Hammock: How to Create a Low-Maintenance Garden, by Ellen Novack and Dan Cooper, pulls together the advice and tips of well-known garden experts, designers and nursery owners for new and experienced gardeners.

This book gives you tips to save time and techniques to avoid weeding so you can relax in your beautiful garden. Each chapter features a garden expert and talks about their favourite plants, explains why they think they are easy to care for, and gives their advice on how to look after them. A key part of the book is a detailed Botanical Reference Guide. Close to 300 easy-care plants are featured. Available at select retailers, or ordered online through gardeningfromahammock.com, for $22.95.

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author, broadcaster and garden editor of Reno & Decor magazine. You can sign up for his free monthly newsletter at markcullen.com, and watch him on CTV Canada AM every Wednesday at 8:45 a.m. You can reach Mark through the “contact” button on his website and follow him on Twitter @MarkCullen4 and Facebook. Mark’s latest book, Canadian Lawn & Garden Secrets, is available at Home Hardware and all major bookstores.

Book Review by Toronto Gardens

Some people live to garden. But, for many of us, gardening is only part of the pleasure of living. We want a nice garden, but we don’t want to be a slave to it. We want to spend some time simply enjoying the fruits of our labour… and with a lot less labour.

If that’s you, then you are the one this book was written for. Gardening from a Hammock by Ellen Novack and Dan Cooper is about the plants you could choose for your easy-care garden – plants for sun or shade as suggested by seventeen* experienced gardeners, including Master Gardeners, noted plantsmen and nursery owners. (*Eighteen, technically; two are mum and son team, Marjorie and Jeff Mason of Mason House Gardens.)

The plants for each gardener reflects their own garden style, from sustainable to bold to drought-tolerant to aristocratic. An excellent botanical reference guide in the back includes details of all the plants mentioned.

I’ll confess that I’ve killed some of the suggestions, notably, and repeatedly, Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa), which is one of the top-ten plants named here by multiple contributors. I say this to stress that the success or failure of any plant in a garden depends on numerous factors. Choosing easy-care plants isn’t always foolproof, and even experienced gardeners can kill cast-iron plants.

Besides a small number of mislabelled photos, I wish the designers had better used typography to clearly divide the sun and shade sections of each narrative – although it’s consistently organized, once you get the hang of it. And, frankly, despite two prominent subheads about low maintenance and easy care on the cover, maybe it’s me but the title sounded more memoir-ish than guide-y. These are minor quibbles, though. This book would be useful in your garden planning toolkit.

As the time to start wrapping gifts approaches, why not get the jump on it with a personalized copy for your favourite gardener. Meet Ellen and Dan this Sunday, September 23, 2012 at Word on the Street. They’ll be at Booth 151 from 11 am to 5 pm, along withNo Guff Gardening author Steve Biggs.  Then, from from 5 to 6 pm, find them among the garden authors signing books all day at the Toronto Botanical Garden booth. Others include Marjorie Harris, Sonia Day, Liz Primeau, Lorraine Johnson and Gayla Trail. Happy reading, and happy gardening.

Read more

Upcoming Event: The Word on the Street

I’m excited to let everyone know that we’re going to have a booth at Word on the Street,  on Sunday September 23rd  at Queens Park area Toronto, where we’ll be signing copies of our book ‘Gardening from a Hammock’. Please drop by booth 151 to say hi. We’ll sign your copy and you’ll save on the shipping costs.

Our book on easy-care perennials for novice and expert gardeners makes a great Christmas gift.


Book Review by Toronto Botanical Garden eNEWS

shopTBG: Summer Reading

This practical, simple and useful book is aimed at those of us who would love to garden, but don’t have the time, knowledge nor energy to do much about it. It’s filled with tips for the lazy gardener, such as ways to save time, conserve water and avoid weeding. There’s plenty of advice from local garden experts—including our own Paul Zammit and Aldona Satterthwaite–on easy-care plants and how to create a good-looking, low-maintenance garden. Really, everyone should have a copy of this book in their collection.

You can buy a copy at the TBG shop or order online from www.gardeningfromahammock.com

[…more at shopTBG]

Book Review by Janis Wallace, London Free Press

It has everything a gardener needs to know

By Janis Wallace, Special to The Free Press


Excuses are easy to list, especially if it’s summer and you’d rather be swinging in a hammock than digging in the dirt. Whether it’s time, knowledge or energy, Ellen Novack and Dan Cooper banish those excuses with their new book, Gardening from a Hammock.

The writer and master gardener teamed up to put together a practical and easy-to-use guide, tapping the expertise of fellow garden gurus such as Marjorie and Jeff Mason, Paul Zammit, Frank Kershaw and Aldona Satterthwaite.

The result is a wide-ranging romp through issues that all gardeners face: soil, sun and water, design and time. The reader is free to choose from differing views on watering, planning and caring for their own space as they become acquainted with the experts and their views.

“We interviewed 17 top gardeners in Ontario,” Novack said. “None is lazy, but they know how to create low-maintenance gardens with year-round interest.”

The practical layout includes a botanical reference guide you can take to your local plant nursery, a metric conversion chart and tips from each feature garden. The guide is useful for any level gardener. It includes photos, growing habits and bloom times, hardiness zones and uses.

Many of the gardeners continue that practical streak in their comments. “Deal with reality,” Satterthwaite said. “Don’t pretend to have an English country garden if you have shade. In order to be a lazy gardener, you first have to be an industrious one. Your initial job is to work on the soil.”

The book is also clear that low maintenance is not the same as no maintenance. If you want the latter, you better use plastic plants. Belinda Gallagher, head of horticulture at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, said, “The minute you plant, there is some kind of maintenance.”

For those with small spaces or balconies, Katy Anderson’s trough garden is an interesting solution. She plants hardy, drought-resistant alpine, rock and dwarf plants. “Troughs are ideal for an aging population who can tend them without bending over.”

Jeff Mason, who runs the Mason House Gardens with his mother Marjorie, has no interest in working in the garden after doing it all day.

“I hate gardening. I collect plants. I install them but I don’t tinker in the garden. I hate weeding.” He plans his garden accordingly, offering great tips for anyone else who likes plants but not looking after them.

Zammit is the opposite. After a day as director of horticulture for the Toronto Botanical Garden, he loves to work in his garden. “It relaxes me,” he said. But he knows not everyone agrees. “Know how much time you are willing to commit to your garden. Be realistic about your physical abilities.”

Know the physical needs of your plants. Martin Galloway offers advice to eliminate watering. For those with clay, Merle Burston discusses how to improve the soil.

Dugald Cameron also believes starting with the soil is critical to success. The president of Gardenimport.com shared his advice: “Prepare the soil, plant in the right spots and purchase plants from nurseries that are in business all year.” For a sunny garden, he believes in bold colours.

Sonia Leslie prefers white. “White perennials go with everything. When there is a lot of brilliant sunshine, colours don’t show up as much. But when you go out in the evening, you can enjoy the glow of white flowers.”

Award-winning designer Kim Price thinks gardens are for enjoyment. Her advice includes placing something interesting at the end of a path, making plants in a small garden earn their keep and not being a perfectionist.

“Consider different textures and sizes of plants. Play with your garden. Instead of laying out your plants from small to large, have some large grass at the front that you can see through, something unexpected.”

Both Lorraine Flanigan and Lindsay Dale-Harris play with their gardens, using them as living labs. They change designs and plants to see what works and what suits their lifestyles.

Susan Lipchak chooses native plants, especially grasses. Marion Jarvie, on the other hand, prefers to select aristocrats — plants with pedigrees. “A plant should be beautiful in terms of leaves, bark, flowers and seeds. It gets more points if it attracts birds or butterflies, has fragrance and an artistic shape.”

There is a touch of poetry in some of the comments. For example, Kershaw, who approaches design like a painter, composing a living form of art, describes a plant in his shade garden: “The Chinese witch hazel reminds me of rhythmic gymnasts with its yellowish ribbon-like blooms.”

Any criticism of the book is minor — use of palates instead of palettes to describe choosing colours, a few errors in grammar. The layout is clean and easy to find information quickly. The photography adds to the information. It is beautiful without being overpowering.